Rescuers expanded their search for people missing and stranded in flooding and landslides, as evacuation orders or advisories remain in effect for 4.3 million people in 23 prefectures from central to southwestern Japan.
With more heavy rain is forecast to hit some areas for at least another day, nearly five million people have been ordered or advised to leave their homes.
An emergency management centre has been set up at the Prime Minister's office to handle the situation and some 54,000 military, police and fire department personnel have been dispatched to the flooded areas.
The special warnings, issued when a once-in-decades disaster looks imminent, were maintained for Kyoto, Hyogo and Okayama prefectures, all in the western region, and newly issued in Gifu Prefecture, central Japan, early Saturday afternoon. "I was just able to escape, but I was terrified", 62-year-old Yuzo Hori told the Mainichi Shimbun daily in Hiroshima.
"Water came to the middle of the second floor", a woman in Kurashiki, Okayama wrote, posting a picture of her room half swamped by flooding.
The rain has completely blanketed some villages, forcing desperate residents to take shelter on their rooftops with flood water swirling below as they wait for rescue. The younger, a first-grader, was a star and the hope of the depopulated island, the principal told NHK. In Hiroshima, nine people were missing after being buried underneath a mudslide Friday night, Kyodo News reported.
By Thursday afternoon, rainfall of about 457 mm (18 inches) had been recorded in some parts of the smallest main island of Shikoku over the last two days, with up to 400 mm (16 inches) more predicted in some areas in the next 24 hours.
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Many people cried out for help on Twitter, as Japan Today described one woman's please for help.
Later, as he walked around to inspect his neighbourhood, he saw many houses with the doors wide open, suggesting that residents had evacuated in a panic, he said.
Auto manufacturers Mitsubishi and Mazda were forced to halt production at some factories because they could not get parts or did not want to force employees to travel to work in unsafe conditions, Kyodo reported.
A rescue helicopter hovers over damaged buildings after a landslide caused by heavy rains in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi prefecture, southwestern Japan. Water and electricity supply was also disrupted across large areas, as some 276,000 households suffered outages across 11 prefectures.
A city official said 170 patients and workers had been evacuated from the hospital and another 130 people, including 70 patients, were waiting to be rescued.
Many severe warnings have been lifted as the rains ease, aiding rescue efforts. "Heavy rain could fall on and off until tomorrow, possibly at record levels".
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